Love can prevail
Asperger Syndrome need not nix romantic opportunities
Article from Longmont Times-Call - November 17, 2009
By PAM MELLSKOG
Eugenia Brady and her boyfriend Miles have been together for about two years since they met at a social event for people who are affected with autism. Eugenia was attending a meeting for parents with children of Autism and Miles was participating in a monthly function for adults with Aspergers.
LAFAYETTE — Every now and then, as they make dinner together in her small kitchen, Eugenia Brady will stop chopping vegetables and interrupt their conversation to kiss her boyfriend passionately.
“But when I come up for air, I just want to finish my story,” said Miles, a man diagnosed as a child with Asperger Syndrome, who preferred not to share his last name.
Though the highest-functioning members of all those diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder,
people will Asperger Syndrome still often miss opportunities to enjoy healthy dating and marriage relationships given the way the disorder hobbles communication.
“If someone is angry, I know what it means if they give me the bird or shake their fist. And I know if someone is happy and cheering, like at a Broncos game. It’s the subtle communication in a marriage that I struggled to see. … Relating to someone romantically is like dealing with another culture,” said Xenia Grant, 44, an AS-diagnosed widow and Autism Society of Colorado support group organizer in Denver.
Brady and Miles attribute some of their more maddening moments of misunderstanding and conflict to as much.
“Other times, it’s just a guy thing, a Mars/Venus thing,” Miles said, referring to the popular book by John Grey, “Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus.”
However, psychologist and marriage counselor Kathy J. Marshack recently tailored a book to address communication issues in this subculture titled, “Life with a Partner or Spouse with Asperger Syndrome: Going over the Edge? Practical Steps to Saving You and Your Relationship” (Austism Asperger Publishing Company 2009).
“Most adults with Asperger Syndrome are undiagnosed. So, someone’s smart, financially successful husband could have AS … and can pass for normal, except at home,” the Vancouver, Wash., resident said.
To cope, the affected partner tends to isolate or dominate in the relationship, which worsens the situation, she said.
Others living with the syndrome never get a chance at romance because they miss the cues that
lead to a deeper relationship.
“I should have worn a button that said, ‘I’m hard of hearing and nearsighted. Please flirt aggressively,’” Miles, 47, said.
Still, he and Brady clicked after meeting in December 2007 at an Autism Society of Colorado potluck. Brady, also 47, attended the event after participating in a class to learn more about the then-recent AS diagnosis of her third child, Benjamin, now 6.
She needed to make the first move, though — something she did in April 2008 by inviting Miles to dinner.
Brady worried about all sorts of things before he arrived. Would the flickering of the fluorescent lights in her kitchen or the high-pitched sounds from the TV agitate him?
“And I needed to remember to ask him for a hug when he left instead of just giving him a hug,” she said, referring to the touch sensitivity some people with AS report.
Since then, the couple has learned ways to work around that issue and others.
For instance, the Costa Rican native often smiles and touches people when she talks.
“That is how I speak, too,” she said.
But Miles initially complained that tickled him.
“The thing is, sometimes it tickles and sometimes it doesn’t,” he said.
Now, when Miles shies from her conversational taps, she sometimes tickles him in earnest. And part of her playful response to his diagnosis-related hang-ups has healed him, Miles said.
Now, often he takes her hand to show her he is focused on listening — even though staying focused enough to listen well challenges the couple, too.
At his tech support job with a local wireless company, Miles listens all day to callers explaining glitches in service. He manages handily to analyze the problem and solve it.
Part of his expertise lies in his extraordinary attention to detail. At a previous job fulfilling orders for printer driver software, he memorized part prices along with the tax and shipping rates to almost every state.
Still, conversation with a sweetheart takes different turns than conversation with a customer.
Brady notices that Miles may say four unrelated things without batting an eye.
“(His conversation) can be disconnected. But now I know to tell him, ‘Miles, I don’t get the connection. You have to explain it to me,’” she said.
Other times, instead of feeling hurt by his silence when she tells him about a tough day, she prods him to respond.
“I just think differently,” Miles said. “I remember reading Dr. Seuss’ ‘Green Eggs and Ham’ story with my sister when I was a kid. She said, ‘Do you know what this means?’ And I said, ‘Yeah, even if food doesn’t look right, you should eat it.’ She has never thought about that story like that.”
But for Brady, this aspect makes working through their communication issues worth it.
“Our differences can be the color of our hair, our eyes, our skin or the way our brain is wired and the way we process information and respond to situations,” she said.
Brady appreciates his fresh takes and, to avoid the unhealthy dominating dynamic highlighted by author Marshack, she gives Miles lots of room to guide her in practical matters as much as she guides him through abstractions.
This fall, for instance, he taught her with plenty of patience how to drive a manual transmission vehicle.
The give-and-take aspect of their relationship along with their shared sense of humor helps them see progress in each other — even when it needs to be spelled out.
“I love that wink she gives me,” Miles said. “I now know it means that she finds me attractive.”
The original source for this article can be found here:
Here is another true love story involving a man with Asperger's Syndrome, the big difference to other stories I have posted recently being that in this case the woman does not have the condition as well.
Stories like this show that individuals with Asperger's can indeed find love and that it doesn't necessarily have to be with someone who has the condition (although in some cases it obviously does play a part). This is certainly a story that can provide hope to men with Asperger's Syndrome as, given the small percentage of girls with the condition, there are far more males than females with it and, besides, a girl having Asperger's Syndrome alone isn't enough to base a relationship on.
What we need is simply someone who can accept us as we are. If we can meet someone who can truly understand our difficulties, perhaps through personal experience, i.e. someone who has the condition themself, then great, but ultimately we just need someone who will accept us and love us as we are and stories like this one show that this is most definitely possible, even with a neurotypical partner (after all, you can't define a person with Asperger's by a label, so the same should definitely apply for Neurotypical individuals as well).
Robert Mann BA (Hons)